As the Shroud of Turin is displayed for the first time in 10 years, four scientists have added to a growing consensus among researchers that carbon testing, which dated the relic to the Middle Ages, was unreliable.
The shroud, which millions believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus, was carbon dated in 1988 by scientists in laboratories in Zurich, Switzerland; Oxford University; and Tucson, Ariz. The tests claimed that the relic dated to between 1260 and 1390 rather than the time of Christ.
But now, four other scientists, led by professor Giulio Fanti at the University of Padua, Italy, signed an article in an Italian statistical magazine that claims to prove the unreliability of the 1988 tests, according to an article in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale Monday.
The carbon dating was “without value,” they wrote in Sis Magazine, as too many “environmental factors had contaminated” the research. “Our study, based on statistical and mathematical calculations, proves beyond doubt that the carbon-14 dating performed in 1988 on the shroud was not reliable and the experiments should have been repeated," they added.
Drawing on “robust statistical analysis,” the four scientists said they did not know whether the sample selected for the 1988 tests was contaminated in the fire the shroud had once been subjected to or had been restored many years ago.
“But nevertheless,” they wrote, “we can confirm the presence of some external factor has caused this high variability of the sample.”
The scientists’ claims back up those Ray Rogers made in 2005. Rogers, who had helped lead extensive research into the shroud since the early 1980s and wanted to prove the shroud a fake, found that the “worst possible” sample of the Shroud was taken for the 1988 radio carbon dating. He concluded that it was a fragment that had been repaired in the 16th century. He said in a video made shortly before his death that he came “very close to proving the Shroud was used to bury the historic Jesus.”
Most of the scientists at the 1988 test have either died or retired. But one witness, Dr. Hans Arno Synal, still believes the carbon testing was accurate. “We applied very rigid procedures,” he told the BBC. “If you'd had human contamination then you would have seen a difference between the different degrees of cleaning we did.”
The textile experts would have picked up any discrepancy in material, Synal said, adding, “I don't doubt that the sample has the same structure as the rest of the shroud. So much effort was put into the sample taking procedure.”
However, Rogers’ findings have been peer reviewed, and nine scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory where he worked independently re-examined his research in 2008 and corroborated his conclusions.
Barrie Schwortz, executive director of the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, believes that any future carbon dating must be “accomplished openly, with complete transparency” if it is to be taken seriously.
“For those of us who have studied the shroud for many years, we have gotten used to hearing far more anti-Shroud news than anything,” Schwortz told Newsmax. “This new exhibition will help to offset that, at least for a while.”
He believes that, together with many resources online and elsewhere, “any public attention drives those who are truly interested in the subject to dig deeper and find out what is truly known about the shroud, rather than relying solely on the misinformation typically reported in the media.”
Schwortz, who would have liked the shroud to be subject to a planned scientific examination (the Catholic Church is showing it at the Turin cathedral for pastoral purposes only), added that any exhibition of the relic still serves a “very positive” purpose.
“I have never met anyone who has actually seen the shroud claim that it is a painting, so the more who get that opportunity, the better,” he said.
Turin authorities estimate that 2 million faithful will visit the long-debated relic, which is on public display for only the sixth time in past 100 years. Pope Benedict XVI will view the sacred burial cloth on May 2. The exhibition runs until May 23.
This month, an Italian monk claimed that Adolf Hitler wanted to steal the shroud during World War II, but Vatican officials and the Italian royal family helped hide it in a rural monastery.
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